It’s not easy pulling off “senior humor” in a medium, and a genre, that caters to a younger audience.
So if you’re looking for groundbreaking television in the new Fox sitcom “The Cool Kids,” you won’t find it. But what you will find are four sitcom veterans who do their best with predictable material — and, for the most part, manage to pull it off without breaking a sweat (or looking too silly).
The series, from Charlie Day (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”), teams reliable TV warhorses Vicki Lawrence, David Alan Grier, Martin Mull and Leslie Jordan as four seniors living together in Shady Meadows, an upscale-ish retirement home in Arizona. The situations are what you might expect, but the writing shows some witty flashes, and the cast, particularly Grier, appears to be enjoying themselves (which always helps).
As the series opens, three retirement-home pals — opinionated Hank (Grier), teller of tall tales Charlie (Mull) and the flamboyant, diminutive Sid (Jordan), are mourning the death of their pal and dining-room tablemate Jerry. The guys think they’re the slickest and coolest in the home (they’re not, of course — this is a sitcom, and that’s the joke). Enter Margaret (Lawrence), whose no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners attitude eventually wins the guys over and, before the first creaky-joint joke, she’s a member of the inner circle.
In the opener, Margaret proves that, beneath her tough exterior, she’s got a tender heart; in Episode 2, the guys take her out to a hip bar to cheer her up (she’s depressed because it’s her 65th birthday).
The dialogue is a bit risque at times (nothing too bad, but still) and there are nods to the #MeToo movement, mansplaining, gender politics and racial profiling (when the four friends, with Hank driving, are pulled over in a car borrowed by Margaret).
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Grier is the strongest of the four Shady Meadows denizens — both as a character and as a performer —and Mull, who’s got a TV resume dating back to the late ’70s, needs more to do. He’s too good of a performer to be given short shrift. Lawrence (“The Carol Burnett Show, “Mama’s Family”) is always good; at times it appears she’s pulling the odd anticipatory smirk a la Jerry Seinfeld on “Seinfeld,” but she eventually settles in comfortably, as does Jordan (“Will & Grace,” “American Horror Story”), who handles the bulk of the physical humor.
The writing on “The Cool Kids” is hit-or-miss, and I would ratchet down the hyperactive laugh track (always annoying). But the cast is appealing enough to overcome these quibbles, and the series will air on Friday night, which network execs realize isn’t exactly a ratings-grabber. We’ll see.